ROOT! is an
Australian rock group from Melbourneformed in 2007. Their music combines alt-country, bluesand indie rockwith elements of spoken word, satire, social commentaryand post-modernism. They have gained attention through a band member being a former member of Melbourne band TISM. [http://www.themusic.com.au/imm_display.php?s=christie&id=327&d=2008-06-03#Festivals Christie Eliezer's Music Business News: Festivals] ]
ROOT! appear onstage in
cowboy hats and affect a stereotypicalcountry image, but their music frequently takes excursions into other genres, including the use of samples and hip-hopbeats. Their singer, DC Root, favours lengthy, largely spoken lyrics with a darkly satirical humour. While humour is central to the appreciation of the group’s philosophy, their music is played with authenticity and serious intent. They are not a “spoof” country act.
Debuting virtually unannounced at the closing party for Melbourne’s Spanish Club on
June 17, 2007, the band quickly attracted considerable public and media interest, manifesting itself in large crowds at their handful of subsequent appearances, the immediate construction of a fan-based website "The ROOT! Compendium" [ [http://rootcompendium.net “The ROOT! Compendium”] ] and articles in both the daily Melbourne newspapers [http://www.theage.com.au/news/music/a-love-letter-to-berlin/2007/09/06/1188783364478.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap3 The Age, September 7, 2007 "Out of the question"] ] – an unprecedented reaction for a seemingly unknown band. They were also adopted as a cause celebreby famed comedian Tony Martin, who began referring to the group regularly on his national radio program " Get This", describing them as “the hottest band in this country.”
The reason for much of the interest centred on DC Root, a former singer of
TISMalso known as Humphrey B. Flaubert. Although the members of ROOT! uniformly adopt the stage surname “Root” they perform as themselves, using their real first names. Unlike TISM, ROOT! appears to be pursuing a much more intimate, musically-based appeal, without the attendant visual extravaganzas and hardcore image.
* Henri Root (aka Henri Grawe) [ [http://www.apra.com.au/cms/worksearch/worksearch.srvlt?action=workSearch Composers of ROOT! songs registered with APRA] ] – guitar, vocals
* Steve Root (aka Steve Paix) [ [http://www.abc.net.au/oztrax/stories/s1056317.htm Steve Paix in Tarmac Adam] ] – keyboards, vocals
* Barnaby Root (aka Barnaby Gold) [ [http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=99702068 Barnaby Gold Myspace site] ] – drums, vocals
* DC Root (aka Damien Cowell) [ [http://www.apra.com.au/cms/worksearch/worksearch.srvlt?action=workSearch Writers of ROOT! songs registered with APRA] ] – vocals, samples
Completely eschewing any reference to his heavily-rumoured past, DC Root claims apocryphally in the band’s bio:
"“One morning I woke up and I was a country singer. You can’t be a proper country singer until your looks have gone. I checked in the mirror, and that confirmed it.”"
More substantial information exists about his musical colleagues, however:
Henri Grawe (aka Henri Root), guitarist, saxophonist and composer, studied jazz improvisation at the
Victorian College of the Arts. He spent his earlier youth as an itinerant musician in Europe, playing guitar in Barcelonaunderground punk band The Rottenmeyers and also in his native Germany as a member of the experimental Bremencollective Planckspanke. Upon returning to his adopted Australia, he had all but turned his back on music, and was working as a carpenter when his chance encounter with DC – reportedly he was consigned to build a set of shelvesFact|date=July 2008 – led to their songwriting collaboration. Grawe helped to record parts of TISM's 2001 album, " De Rigueurmortis". [ [http://www.geocities.com/victimsoftism/2pot.htm TISM album credits] ]
After writing songs in seclusion for two years, the pair recorded a series of demos – featuring DC on vocals, drums and samples and Henri on guitars, which led to the formation of a fully realised group, which they called ROOT!.
To flesh out the group, Henri called upon his network of former College Of The Arts associates. Through this connection they found Steve Paix (Steve “Root”) – a classically-trained piano prodigy who had played with, among others,
Eric Burdon, Thelma Houston, Glen Shorrockand the local band Tarmac Adam[ [http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=56916354 Tarmac Adam MySpace site] ] . Now largely working as a television theme composer, Steve agreed to adopt the collective surname and contribute honky-tonkpiano and organ bass to the tracks.
In turn, Steve Root recommended Barnaby Gold. Winner of a national drumming title at the tender age of 19, he had spent subsequent time living and playing in
New Orleansbefore returning locally to play jazz and blues with a host of artists including Jeff Lang, Bob Sedergreen, Paul Williamson, and Kerri Simpson[ [http://www.revolverdrums.com.au/tuition/barnaby_gold.html Barnaby Gold bio] ] .
The line-up secured, they made their debut appearance at the closing party of Melbourne’s Spanish Club on
June 17 2007. Although barely announced, word that an alleged member of TISM was unveiling a new project led to a large, expectant crowd assembling. From here, word of mouth spread, leading to heavy traffic on the band's nascent MySpacepage, the creation of a fan website entitled The ROOT! Compendium, and growing demand for an album.
ROOT! appeared at a handful of other performances over the next few months, whilst re-recording tracks for their debut album. The title, "
Root Supposed He Was Out Of The Question", and the artwork, featuring an anachronisticcartoon cowboy known as “Root” were released, though the album remains a work in progress.
In 2008, the band played live with additional musicians Joe Talia (aka Joe Root,
pedal steel, banjo, another VCA graduate) and Douglas Lee Robertson (aka Doug Lee Root, bass, ex- Ice Cream Hands). [ [http://rootcompendium.net The ROOT! Compendium] ]
Musical style and influences
DC Root and Henri Root claim that their initial common musical ground was the
Flying Burrito Brothers[http://www.webcutsmusic.com/news60.html Webcuts Music: ROOT! The Interview (Part1)] (Interview) April 27, 2008. Accessed July 100, 2008.] and Mark E. Smith. DC describes ROOT! as comprising of all the things he loves about country that has been mixed with other genres. It is the "long-winded musical excursion" with "a little wit as well" inherent in country music that allows DC Root to employ poetic, literary imagery and then undercuts it with self-effacing references, ie “my crappy re-invention” or his love for the commonplace:
"“There’s this silence, now she’s left me. Just mozzies on the man-made river”"
Judging by some of the international “friends” on ROOT!'s MySpace site [ [http://www.myspace.com/rootthemusic ROOT! MySpace site] ] , DC Root would appear to have an affection for classic British pop, such as
XTC, The Auteurs, Super Furry Animalsand Robyn Hitchcock. Comparisons are possible between all of these and DC Root’s use of humour and the glorification of the joys and absurdities of everyday life. However there are few antecedents of DC Root’s style in Australia, especially given his determination to ground his stories in local reference. Paul Kelly is the most famous and celebrated practitioner of this style, although his stories are generally more heroic and conventionally emotional.
Musically, the sound of ROOT! is initially easy to categorize under the label “alt-country” – that is, a modern, “alternative” approach to traditional country music. However, whilst the elements of country are there – the classic
walking basslines, twanging tremolo guitar, shuffling drums, swirling organ and rootsy piano fills, there are indications in the band’s live performance of other elements – straightforward pop, psych-rock, and the contemporary drum grooves of hip hop. Also, in a live context, songs like " Pauline HansonSays There’s Christian Muslims Too" and "Henri Lee" are almost garage-punkin their rudimentary intensity.
Root Supposed He Was Out Of The Question..." (2007)
* "Get Up Yourself" (2008)
* [http://rootcompendium.net The ROOT! Compendium]
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